Entrepreneurs Put Capital to Work for Economic Growth

It doesn’t matter what country, society or region an entrepreneur operates within.  They will put capital to work to help stimulate the economy.  As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week the anchors at Gangplank decided to embark on a social experiment.  We realized that we are lucky to live a part of the world where access to capital is fairly easy found, to pursue our ideas.  We understand that is not the case across the globe.

We decided to use KIVA to create the Global Entrepreneurship Week Challenge.  Our first target was Jones Matagaro Nyamasege from Kenya.  He was looking for $1,000.  Our mission was to get him fully funded and get the Gangplank KIVA team to get $2000 into the system.  Amazingly within the first 24 hours we already had Jones fully funded.  We started with a second selection, Noel Pandero from the Philippines.  He was funded within a day.  We are now looking to fund Ruben Fernando from Bolivia.  Help us out and join the challenge!

You Can’t Do Collaboration Without Being a Collaborator

In various software development circles I hear the phrase “You can’t do Agile, you have to be Agile”.  This makes sense to me so never thought much about it.  However, when asked about Gangplank and describing it we choose say collaborative workspace over coworking, but it’s hard to get people to understand that difference.

It wasn’t until I read Johanna Rotham’s Six Behaviors to Consider for an Agile Teamthat it really hit home.  It made sense.  “You can’t do collaboration, you have to be a collaborator”.  In a nutshell, we didn’t create Gangplank because it’s what we do, we created Gangplank because it’s who we are.  This might sound like a trivial subtlety, but I think it’s really what makes Gangplank work.

The Future, It’s About People..

We have been talking about concepts in software development for the last few years at Integrum getting back to humanity.  That the separation of goals and values between developers, product owners and users is out of control.  We have executed a grand experiment with Gangplank of restoring fellowship and collaboration back to the workplace.  Tearing down the context of work and ushering in a place of collaboration, connectivity, creation and innovation.

Recently, I was listening to famed economist Richard Florida talk about what he sees in store for us in 2050.  He ends with “But I think by 2050, we’ll have a much more urban, a faster-paced world, a hopefully a more diverse world, and a world that I think at the bottom not only treats the natural resources and natural environment better, but really for the first time in history, really values human creativity and human beings.  And, you know, if we can leave that kind of world for our kids and grandkids, we’ll all be better off.”

I am excited for the day where we celebrate the human spirit and all that it encompasses, seeing every person not as a cog or a stepping stone, but as a person that should be valued for their uniqueness.  I hope that is the world that my grand kids are able to enjoy.

Coworking is a commodity. It is a race to the bottom.

I read  “A case against ‘free trial coworking‘” by Alex Hillman from IndyHall and it reminded why I can’t relate to the coworking movement.  I purposefully use the word collaborative workspace when talking about Gangplank because implying that there is a coworking component is a misleading comparison.

Coworking claims to be trans-formative and future thinking.  Changing how people work and think about work, but in reality it is a lie.  It highlights independence of the worker, but still structures itself on old economy models of thinking.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s examine a single phrase from this article to highlight the point.

‘..it’s unwise in an early stage business to give ANYTHING away that you wouldn’t otherwise charge for..’

That is conventional wisdom.  That if you give something away it costs what you gave. The more you have the less I have.  The more I share the more I lose.  This is a dying model.  Repackaging it as a revolution by telling the participants they have ‘independence’ is disingenuous.

The truth is charging for space turns the relationship into a transaction and destroys the ability for real community to flourish.  Coworking is a commodity.  It is a race to the bottom.

At Gangplank we choose to give our space away for free.  All the time, not just on a trial basis. When you give something away, you benefit more than the recipient does.  The act of being generous makes you rich beyond measure, and as the goods or services spread through the community, everyone benefits.  Giving space as a gift with no reciprocity allows us to experiment and create.  We seek to help people be dangerous and challenge the status quo. It’s not for everyone, but it’s how we see the world and we hope to help the right people change their view of the world and how they contribute back to it.  We want to give them the gift of finding the creator within themselves.

Metro Phoenix has been hit harder than most during this recession.  We feel that giving to the community freely let’s us all prosper more quickly.  It increases the quality of bond between our members and ultimately strengthens our community.  It leaves an obligation for our members to help the next person.  The gift creates a surplus as it spreads and ultimately gives us joy.

The argument we always hear is ‘Some one has to pay for it.  You can’t run a space for free’.  The truth is if you were remarkable you would find a way to give it away for free.

The reason Gangplank is hard to quantify is because its worth something more than we could ever charge in rent.

The New Economy: A Guide For Arizona

Getting ready for the 96th Arizona Town Hall, I am reading their report Building Arizona’s Future: Jobs, Innovation & Competitiveness.  It references a 1999 paper from the Morrison Institute The New Economy: A Guide for Arizona.  It lists eight principles that underpin the new economy…

  1. Technology is a given
  2. Globalization is here to stay
  3. Knowledge builds wealth
  4. People are the most important raw material
  5. There is no such thing as a smooth ride
  6. Competition is relentless
  7. Alliances are the way to get things done
  8. Place still matters

Those  items in bold are the very thing that Gangplank espouses and I will be reminding the Town Hall the importance of them.  Most importantly, I will remind them that good and talented people are the key.

Five foundations found to be critical based off this study were

  1. Connecting (telecommunications infrastructure)
  2. E-Government (getting government on-line for faster/better service)
  3. E-Learning (distance learning and technology in classrooms)
  4. Creative Communities (amenity-rich communities with strong quality of place)
  5. Knowledge leaders, entrepreneurs and capital (higher education, R&D, tech transfer, incubation and VC)

Again those items highlighted are the essence of Gangplank.  We are proud that the City of Chandler is standing as a strong supporter in providing ALL of these things and why we think they will be the CORE of the Sun Corridor.

Please leave comments to tell me I’m wrong, stupid and idiotic.  I am looking for motivation.

Oblivious To The Things You Do

Sometimes when you are in the heat of doing things you become completely oblivious to how things are being perceived by others.  At AgileOpenNorthwest we were talking about Agile software development and started to talk about Where Are Your Keys.  The discussion quickly became about understanding how we learn is so important to the skill set of the new economy.  Everyone started talking about the current broken educational systems.  At one point someone blurted out “What are we going to do? Change the educational system?”.  I answered, “Yes, we are.”.  Everyone at the table looked at me like I had three eyes.  I had just got on a plane to come to the conference directly from leaving our first Educational Unconference to change the educational system, so this seemed normal to me.

Take Away

When challenging the norm becomes your norm expect people to look at you funny.

Freedom In Being Focused

As mentioned on the Gangplank blog “What Exactly Is Gangplank?“, we recently went through the exercise of answering that question.  It seems stupid.  It seems simple.  It may even seem worthless.  The truth is that it was liberating.  Carrying a ton of thoughts in my head about all what Gangplank is to me left a jumbled mess.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have all that potential and can’t do those things, it just means that now that energy is centered and focused.  The thoughts are no longer fleeting and dashing.  The worrying has subsided and the revelation is starting to surface.

Gangplank is hard to explain, because we don’t currently have good examples of pure collaborative workspaces that challenge the very definition of what innovation is.  Where a fundamental organizational shift is being played out.  The focus is not on the product, process or output.  It is focused on how the people within function and collaborate opening new doors and unifying people and companies in ways that set in motion things greater than what we are used to seeing.  Unlocking chunks of serendipity between organizations that have never been thought about.  Never would I have expected the following statement to be so freeing.

To innovative companies and creative people, Gangplank is the collaborative workspace that provides infrastructure and community that creates the new economy.


Encouraging Institutional Innovation By Changing How We Educate

John Hagel’s Edge Perspectives has an excellent article on challenging mindsets from reverse innovation to innovation blowback. It reinforces our mindset in why we are passionate about how Gangplank is structured and why concepts brought out in Gangplank Jr are so necessary for our future.

Their research highlights that innovation in the next wave will not be one centered around products.

“We drew attention to a different form of innovation – institutional innovation… we saw entrepreneurs re-thinking institutional arrangements… offering all participants an opportunity to learn faster and innovate more effectively by working together. While Western companies were lured into various forms of financial leverage, these entrepreneurs were developing sophisticated approaches to capability leverage in scalable business networks that could generate not just one product innovation, but an accelerating stream of product and service innovations.”

They emphasize that it is fundamentally different than how we currently perceive innovation. Notice that it is focused on TRUST and FLEXIBILITY. It is not a coincidence that Gangplank Manifesto is centered around people trusting each other. Agility of an organization as well as it’s tools are a by product.

“Institutional innovation is different – it defines new ways of working together, ways that can scale much more effectively across large numbers of very diverse enterprises. It provides ways to flexibly reconfigure capability while at the same time building long-term trust based relationships that help participants to learn faster.”

We like to think that Gangplank is currently the only workspace of it’s kind. A truly collaborative workspace driving a new economy. That economy comes from the disruptive power of institutional innovation. I suspect you will see a lot more of it in the future.

“Institutional innovation has enormous power to disrupt and drive major new forms of economic value creation and capture. Much of its power stems from its ability to blindside incumbents who hold onto traditional mindsets.”

We believe the core of Gangplank Jr is teaching the next generation to embrace scalable collaborative approaches to the work they engage in and in forming the solutions to the problems they face. We believe they have more to teach us than we have to teach them.

“Until and unless Western executives begin to aggressively challenge these assumptions and awaken to the potential of institutional innovation, they will remain vulnerable to attack. They must begin to recognize that the most promising forms of innovation emerging in developing economies are not at the level of individual products or services but rather at a much deeper level – novel approaches to scalable peer learning shaped by institutional innovation.”

Regional Ruby Conference in Phoenix, Arizona

There was a call for conference planning for a Regional Ruby Conference on the Ruby AZ meeting list recently.   It was at the request of fellow local Ruby company DevFu that I decided to attend.  I showed up for the planning meeting and was impressed by the turnout. I think most of the regular rubyists were in attendance and all of the companies seemed represented.

I was turned off that it was at a coffee shop.  When there ended up being no room to sit, I admit I felt that I had wasted my time showing up.  Several people mentioned that using something like Gangplank was out of the question because then others wouldn’t attend in protest. I was disappointed that the maturity level was so bad in the community that I reconciled that this thing had no chance.  Out of frustration I even over reacted by calling the selection of the location as a cluster fuck.

The good news is that it ended up being a really good discussion. I think that if nothing else that perhaps the act of planning a regional conference will be the thing that finally gels the local ruby community.  I really felt by the end of the meeting that everyone was working and discussing things that will move this community forward. It left me with hope that perhaps the community is not too fractured or damaged to be taken seriously. Marc and Curtis thanks for taking the time to explore getting this off the ground. I genuinely look forward to helping out.

Looks like we are planning for something in Sept/Oct of 2010 as the date.  There are work groups actively working on venue, speakers, sponsorship, etc.. I started the day with a bad attitude about things and left pretty excited to help make this event happen.

Startups and Mind Camps and Crowd Pitches. Oh My

It is clear to me that we are not in Kansas anymore.  I expected today to be full of amazing as more days than not seem to be that way of late around Gangplank.  The morning got going by kicking off a new start-up that Integrum is working with from a group of Intel alumni.  The planning meeting for the kickoff was full of energy and was a setup for things to come.  Straight from that meeting had an Integrum retrospective that unveiled a new concept of transparent and accountable running of a company day in and day out.  I will probably make a separate post on the concept in the near future.

By the time we finished up there it was time for Mind Camp to kick off.  Four hours of heated debate on transportation, regional city planning and religion later it was time to break down and setup for Crowd Pitch.  I love the energy around Crowd Pitch and sitting on an investor panel is always fun.  By the end of the night I learned that Gnomedex is now part of Funding Universe and that there is a good chance we could see it coming to Chandler in the future.  Additionally, there is a reasonable chance that we could be launching Gangplank in a foreign country.  Possibilities are limitless when you stop putting boundaries on potential by planning too small.